No defeat could have been more complete for the Roosevelt administration than the Supreme Court's decision declaring the National Recovery Act unconstitutional. Although it will undoubtedly bring relief to a large group of businessmen who have been so restless and uneasy during past months, the decision can bring nothing but disappointment to those who hoped that the New Deal would have certain permanent effects upon the social structure of the country.
The unanimity of the Supreme Court, leaves no doubt as to the legality of the decision. That the N.R.A. was unconstitutional even its most ardent proponents have always believed at the bottom of their hearts. This smashing fall of the guillotine on the head of the bedraggled eagle is the ghost the New Dealers have been seeing in the window from almost the very beginning. One does not have to be an authority on constitutional law to see the complete invalidity of the N.R.A. Not only did Congress delegate legislative powers to the President, but what is more important, it endeavored to exert its control over business which was clearly not interstate commerce.
It is almost tragic that the federal government has definitely been denied the right to regulate hours and to set a minimum wage for the whole country. Where there is free trade between the states it is a glaring injustice that certain sections of the country should be allowed to maintain a standard of living worthy of central Europe. While there are few Americans who want the government to go into business or to control the details of business, the sentiment that a uniform standard of living should be federally established is constantly growing in strength.
Now that it has been shown without the possibility of evasion that Congress must confine its control to commerce which is clearly interstate, there is only one course of action open to the country if it desires to make the social program of the New Deal a permanent part of American government. It must tackle this ticklish job of amending the Constitution, so that Congress will have the power to wipe out the more glaring abuses in American industry by establishing minimum wages and maximum hours to be observed throughout the country. Such a step will inevitably be distasteful to a people who like to regard their constitution as able to cope with any situation, but it must be done in the interests of the mass of the citizens whose welfare has too long been overlooked.